[DECEMBER 24, 1861. - For Benjamin to Trapier, with reference to organization of troops in Florida, see Series I, VOL. LIII, p. 203.]
[DECEMBER 24, 1861. - For Benjamin to Crittenden and Crittenden to Cooper, in relation to the organization of troops in East Tennessee, see Series I, VOL. VII, pp. 790, 791.]
CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA, WAR DEPARTMENT,
Richmond, December 24, 1861.
His Excellency THOMAS O. MOORE,
Governor of Louisiana:
SIR: I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of your letter of 17th instant on the subject of shipments of cotton from New Orleans. In reply I beg to say that Congress has had its attention turned to this subject more than once and has hitherto refused to interfere with shipments of produce of all kinds from our ports, and I do not therefore consider that any executive officer has power to interfere with such shipments when made in good faith. It is obvious, however, that with our ports blockaded nothing would be easier than for persons under pretext of attempting to run the blockade to trade with the public enemy. It is of course the duty of we executive officers to intercept such unlawful voyages and break up such intercourse. In this view of the case I have instructed our commanders at different ports to watch over such voyages, to permit no vessels to leave port in face of an efficient blockading squadron, and to interfere whenever there were well-grounded suspicions of collusion with the enemy. Beyond this (which is purely executive) it has been my aim not to interfere with a commerce which Congress has not thought proper to interdict. The measure you adopted in New Orleans of not permitting the accumulation of cotton in the harbor (so as to avoid tempting the enemy of an attack for the purpose of capturing it) is entirely similar in its character to those adopted by this Department. It was a measure of military defense, and as such within the discretion of the commander-in-chief of the State. But where parties in good faith are engaged in the lawful commerce of exporting cargoes to neutrals, in the absence of any prohibiting legislation by Congress, I am unable to perceive on what ground the executive departments of either the State or the Confederacy could justifiably interfere. I know no stronger test of good faith than when parties run the blockade into our ports with cargoes adapted to our needs. But when vessels enter in ballast for the purpose of taking out cargoes of naval stores or cotton, both much needed by the enemy, I have felt justified in regarding such cases with great suspicion as prima facie collusive and fraudulent.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. P. BENJAMIN,
Secretary of War.
P. S. - May I beg of you the favor to show this letter to Hon. E. W. Moise as my answer to a dispatch on the same subject just received from him.